Bruins Moving

As announced earlier today by the Western Hockey League, the Chilliwack Bruins Hockey Club has been sold and will be relocating to Victoria BC immediately.

There are multiple reasons that led to the decision.

Royals Hockey LogoIn February of 2009, as part of its strategic plan, the Western Hockey League Board of Governors made a decision to actively pursue securing a WHL franchise for the Victoria market. At that time, the WHL Board of Governors were advised that should a franchise become available for sale, the WHL may elect to relocate the club to Victoria.

Although expanding the league beyond 22 teams was not ruled out, the WHL Board of Governors preference was to relocate an existing team.

Further expansion was not considered a viable alternative due to the demand it would place on the talent pool of players and the ability for WHL Clubs to remain competitive at the national level.

It should be noted that the WHL Board of Governors govern all matters related to WHL franchises.

This includes the right to approve franchise ownership and the relocation and sale of franchises in accordance with its bylaws, constitution and strategic plans.

Since 2006, the year the Chilliwack Bruins began operations, the geographical market has changed dramatically.

With new arenas in Abbotsford and Langley and the arrival of the American Hockey League in Abbotsford, it became obvious to the Bruins ownership group that the franchise needed to be restructured from a medium size model to a small market size model.

Despite repeated attempts, the Bruins ownership group was unable to negotiate a new lease with the Chiefs Development Group, the owners and operators of Prospera Centre. What was requested was a lease concurrent to other small market privately owned WHL teams.

This inability to secure a new lease contributed to the deterioration of our ownership group and their relationship with the Chiefs Development Group.

In addition, the Bruins ownership group recognized the seemingly imminent risk of further changes to the hockey landscape in the immediate area.

If the Chilliwack Bruins were to continue operations in Prospera Centre with a similar lease, these potential changes would seriously impact their ability to remain viable in Chilliwack.

On January 13 2011, the Chilliwack Bruins Limited Partnership (consisting of co-owners Brian Burke, Glen Sather, Darryl Porter, Moray Keith and Jim Bond) held a meeting of their ownership group and agreed with the WHL to sell its franchise for the purpose of relocating the club to Victoria.

Provided the terms of the sale met the conditions by the Chilliwack Bruins Limited Partnership, the partners agreed no other offers would be considered.

The sale would be subject to the WHL Board of Governors approval and all parties associated with the transaction were bound by a confidentiality agreement.

On March 17, the WHL Board of Governors granted conditional approval for the sale of the Chilliwack WHL franchise and final agreements were then signed and the transaction closed yesterday.  All conditions associated with the WHL’s approval of the sale and relocation have been satisfied.

The sale closed on April 19. From a strategic standpoint, the WHL’s goal is to position its franchises in the most influential markets in Western Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

The City of Victoria, as the B.C. capital and home to a 7,000 seat arena facility, represents an ideal market for the WHL

“We cannot stress enough that we feel terrible for all our loyal fans, our business staff, sponsors, volunteers and billet families,” said Bruins President Darryl Porter. “The loyalty showed to us by all of these groups was tremendous.

We do believe that Chilliwack is a strong WHL small market location but only with the proper lease agreement in place.

Over a two year period we repeatedly requested this support from both the Chiefs Development Group and the City of Chilliwack.
Our pleas were rejected.”

“The WHL would also like to express its appreciation to the fans, sponsors, media, billet families and staff who have supported the Chilliwack Bruins franchise over the past five seasons”, commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison.

“We believe that under the right conditions Chilliwack can be a viable WHL market and we intend to give full consideration to returning should relocation occur in the future.”